The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is greening up right now with California poppy plants. So where are the buds whose blooms will paint the fields orange? Nowhere in sight.
"Although we've gotten a good amount of rain, it's not quite up to average yet," California State Parks interpreter Jean Rhyne says of the Mojave Desert site.
Based on conditions and input from a volunteer researcher, Rhyne predicts a moderate California poppy bloom this season. Fans always hope to walk among jaw-dropping orange carpets last seen in 2008 and 2010.
The reserve is about 2 inches short of rainfall in a year that Rhyne says "wasn't the optimal precipitation pattern for poppies." More rain forecast later this week could help.
Visitors may still see some carpets of poppy blooms in pockets, likely best on the east side of the park. And poppies aren't the only thing expected to pop.
It may be a spectacular year for goldfields and blue dicks, wildflowers not as commonly seen at the reserve; Rhyne calls them "surprise plants." Also known as wild hyacinth, the blue dicks are tall with slender stalks and clusters of bright purple flowers.
"Carpets of yellow goldfields and dark purple blue dicks are always gorgeous," Rhyne says. Other wildflowers expected to bloom at the park include lacy phacelia (also purple), lupine, owl's clover and perhaps other surprise species.
Blooms are forecast to begin in early March, with good displays expected toward the middle of that month. However, other factors like a blazing heat wave (which happened last year) and raking winds can destroy plants.
The reserve is open to visitors year-round. The visitors center will open March 1 and remain open through May 14. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends.
For wildflower reports, check the park's website and the Poppy Reserve Wildflower Hotline at (661) 724-1180.